Rob Cross was beaten in the quarter-finals on his first tournament outing since being crowned world darts champion.
The St Leonards-based player lost 10-8 to Mensur Suljovic at the Unibet Masters yesterday (Sunday) having been an impressive 10-3 winner over Ian White in round one on Friday.
Cross was below his brilliant best against world number six Suljovic, who grew stronger as the match progressed, finishing with a 101.40 average and hitting 10 of his 20 darts at a double. Cross averaged 99 exactly and hit six 180s, but landed only eight of 24 shots at a double.
World number three Cross began well enough, winning three of the first four legs, two of them in 14 darts. Suljovic then pulled off a 121 checkout to break back in the fifth leg.
The 27-year-old Cross hit 180s in each of the next three legs and won two of them to lead 5-3. After a 14-darter in leg seven, Cross rather stole the eighth as Suljovic missed three darts at a double.
Then came the decisive period of the match as 2017 Champions League winner Suljovic, from Austria, reeled off five successive legs to move 8-5 ahead.
Cross had a chance to go 6-3 up, but Suljovic produced a 120 checkout to make it 5-4, finished 78 for 5-5, broke throw in 13 darts to lead for the first time at 6-5, checked out 112 to win leg 12 and broke throw in 14 darts in leg 13.
A frustrated Cross then stepped up a gear, producing back-to-back 13-darters to cut his deficit to 8-7. He missed the bull for a 126 checkout and Suljovic landed double 10 to lead 9-7.
Suljovic missed the bull for a 124 finish in leg 17 and Cross hit double 14 for 9-8. Although Cross landed another 180 followed by a 128, Suljovic took out 136 - his fourth hundred-plus checkout of the match - to seal his first victory in five meetings with Cross.
Voltage, as Cross is nicknamed, previously made a winning start to the £200,000 tournament, in which the world’s top 16 ranked players battled it out at Arena MK, Milton Keynes, live on ITV4.
Despite saying afterwards he felt “rusty”, Masters debutant Cross achieved a 102.08 average, hit seven 180s and was successful with 56 percent of his darts at a double in a convincing victory over White.
Cross opened with a 68 finish and then piled in a 167 checkout - the type of which he made a trademark during his World Championship run - as he opened up a 3-0 lead.
The Stoke thrower took out 136 to respond, but Cross replied with finishes of 105 and 66 before a 12-darter moved him 7-2 up.
White finished 91 as he claimed the 10th leg, but Cross scored 180 and 174 in another 12-darter to restore his cushion, and then took the next two legs following misses from the 14th seed as he secured his quarter-final spot.
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